Fratello’s Top 5 Pre-Owned Affordable Rolex Sports Watches — Featuring An Explorer II, A Sea-Dweller, A GMT-Master, And More
Another Friday, another Top 5! Last week, we explored the affordable side of Haute Horlogerie with five timepieces under €10K from renowned brands. In the article, I briefly touched up on the possibility of buying a Rolex for the same amount of money. So this week, we decided to dive into the world of pre-owned Rolex sports models to discover some of the most affordable options. And to our surprise, some of the prices were lower than we had thought. So let’s unveil our top five pre-owned Rolex sports watches to buy now. None of the models are surprising, but their prices might be.
Looking back at last week’s list, it was fun to come up with some options that you can buy under €10K that are not the obvious picks, especially Rolex watches. All of them had a gold case, and there were some interesting complications in there as well. While I agree with some of the comments that you could argue whether all five models could be labeled as Haute Horlogerie, it was a nice catalyst for a good discussion with some great suggestions from you, the Fratelli. The comments featured some amazing pieces that are available at a similar price, showing that there are many great options if you wander off the beaten path. That’s something we should do more often.
Picking five affordable pre-owned Rolex sports watches
Last week’s list sparked the discussion of what you can actually get from The Crown for less than €10,000. About a month ago, Daan gave us options for your first Rolex under €7K. After checking today’s asking prices on Chrono24, you seem to have quite a few options, even at Daan’s budget. Checking prices for Rolex watches is an ongoing obsession for many of us, including the Fratello editors. It is our natural curiosity, often resulting from owning one or more Rolexes or wanting to add one to our collection. So it’s time for our regular check to see what your current affordable options are. Before you scroll down to the comments section, we mean “affordable” in the Rolex universe, of course.
Obviously, there is a price range for pre-owned models, but this time, we decided to look at your most affordable options at the lower end of the range. In addition to that, the condition of the watch, delivery with the box and papers, and geographical location also play a big part in prices. But we managed to compile a great list of five models based on the Chrono24 asking prices, which are good indicators of today’s options. None of these watches will be surprising; we have published articles about them before. But as Rolex pricing is always a hot topic, it’s always fun to write about. So, without further ado, let’s jump in.
Rolex Explorer ref. 114270
Our first pick is the Rolex Explorer ref. 114270. It’s a watch that Fratello’s Daan owns and has written about multiple times. He also featured it in his list of options under €7K. But to our surprise, the starting prices for a ref. 114270 are around €5,000. And within the €5K–6K price range, you are spoiled for choice. You can get one in very good condition with the box and papers well under €6K. It makes the classic 36mm Explorer a great first pick for this list. If you prefer the bigger 39mm follow-up to this ref. 114270, you have to add quite a significant chunk of cash. The Mk1 versions of the ref. 214270 start at roughly €6K, while the Mk2 options — the ones you really want — start around €7K.
If you can pull off the 36mm version, that is your best pick. Just as a reminder, the ref. 114270 was produced from 2001 to 2010. It has a 36mm Oyster case that is 11.1mm thick and 44.2mm from lug to lug. It features the iconic black 3-6-9 dial that defines the piece’s charm. Inside the case, you will find the Rolex caliber 3130. This automatic movement operates at a 28,800vph frequency and has 48 hours of power reserve. With the Rolex Explorer ref. 114270, you will get a perfect daily wearer suited for a wide variety of situations. It’s a great first pick at a surprisingly good price.
Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570
We are staying within the Explorer family but taking a step toward the Explorer II. Reference 16570 is a Fratello favorite and was produced from 1989 until 2011. Thomas and Gerard own one, and it is Nacho’s grail watch. In May of 2022, Nacho put the thought of buying this Explorer II on ice. Prices kept rising, making it harder and harder to justify the purchase of this rugged tool watch. But roughly 18 months later, the world is a different place. Don’t say that to Thomas because he might chase you as a result of buying his ref. 16570 when prices were still soaring. In today’s market, you will be able to buy a ref. 16570 with the box and papers and in good condition starting at just under €7K. Spending between €7K and €8K will get you one in very good condition.
If you are not looking for one with its box and papers, you can shave off quite a bit and get one starting at just over €6K and moving up. While my initial assumption was that the black model would be slightly cheaper, both are offered for roughly the same asking prices. That will get you the last of the 40mm Explorer II models. As Thomas explained in a Sunday Morning Showdown, the Explorer II is the one Rolex that, when you spot it on someone’s wrist, instantly tells you the wearer is into watches. With so many Rolex options out there, the Explorer II is very much a deliberate choice. The case measures 40mm in diameter, just over 12mm thick, and 47.5mm from lug to lug. Inside it, you will find caliber 3185 for the pre-2006 models. After that, Rolex used its updated caliber 3186. Overall, this is the one Explorer II to have if you ask us. With today’s prices, Nacho might change his mind.
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060
A model that many watch fans will check the prices of is the Rolex Submariner. When it comes to the long lineage of the Submariner, the ref. 14060 is and has been your best bet as an affordable option. This reference is the last of the dateless Submariners with an aluminum bezel. But it was the first of the no-date Submariners to have a sapphire crystal. As most of you will know, the Submariner ref. 14060 came equipped with the Rolex caliber 3000. Later, ref. 14060M versions housed the improved caliber 3130, and those go for more money. Either way, the ref. 14060 is a perfect modern daily wearer with the classic Submariner charm.
It is also why Thomas picked it for his €25,000 watch collection. And he reserved a healthy €10K for his ref. 14060. He was right to do so because that will get you one in very nice condition. Looking at your options, if you search well, you might be able to get one between €8.5K and €10K, which will buy you an absolutely brilliant watch. If you are not interested in boxes and papers, that shaves off a chunk of money. Asking prices start at roughly €7.5K, and going up to €9K will offer you plenty of choices to get an absolute classic.
Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600
On to my absolute favorite of this list. The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 is high on my list of wants. It’s the absolute perfect Rolex for me and the one watch that connected me to the brand in all the right ways around 20 years ago. After wearing Robert-Jan’s Sea-Dweller for a few days in the early 2000s, I knew this was the one Rolex for me. Compared to the Submariner, the chunkier case of the Sea-Dweller is a joy to wear, and the watch oozes competence on your wrist. This reference was produced from 1989 until 2009 and has a 40mm case that measures 48mm from lug to lug and 14.5mm thick. Rolex equipped the watch with the COSC-certified and super reliable caliber 3135.
When it comes to the current prices, we see that they have come down quite a bit. These days, the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 starts at €7K, and if you move up to €8.5K, you will have plenty of wiggle room to find a nice one. If you want one with its box and papers, the price range goes up from €8K to €10K for a good one. If you ask me, those prices are reasonable considering the brilliance you will get in return. Having said that, I am also heavily biased. I’d love to add the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 to my collection one day. Maybe that day is closer than I had ever thought…
Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16710
The last of our five picks is the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16710. It’s the last generation of the GMT-Master II that came with an aluminum bezel, just like the Submariner ref. 14060 we talked about. The watch was produced from 1989 until 2007. You have the choice of the iconic red and blue Pepsi bezel insert, black and red Coke insert, or an all-black insert. The 40mm case measures 12mm thick and just under 48mm from lug to lug. It is the perfect modernized version of the first GMT-Master from the 1950s. As such, it has the charm of the original, but it is executed with modern standards in mind. The watch houses the Rolex caliber 3185, which also powered the Explorer II we highlighted earlier. Later versions also came with the follow-up caliber 3186.
As you would expect, the versions with the all-black or Coke bezels are somewhat more affordable than the Pepsi-bezel ones. Expect to see prices starting a little above €9K for the all-black or Coke variants. If you want plenty of choice, expect prices to go up to €11K easily. Considering that the current GMT-Master II has a list price of €10,700, it’s safe to say that the (neo-)vintage versions are quite costly. But after seeing the ref. 16710 again, I am reminded how much more I love the charm of the aluminum bezel inserts compared to their current Cerachrom counterparts. For me, it’s a big reason to go for a ref. 16710 over the more recent models.
Final thoughts on the top five affordable Rolex sports watches
Sure, this price exercise does not bring any revolutionary things to light. It’s more of a recurring topic that we shine a light on based on our own curiosity. And as most of us are Rolex owners and enthusiasts at Fratello, it makes sense that we do this regularly. As mentioned, “affordable” is a debatable word for watches between €5K and €10K, but it all needs context. And in the proper Rolex context, it means that I might finally need to chase that Sea-Dweller ref. 16600. Nacho might also need to reconsider whether he wants to wait for his much-beloved Explorer II ref. 16570. Now I pass the question over to you. Which of these five Rolex sports watches would be your pick? Do you think now is the time to buy a pre-owned Rolex? Let us know in the comments section, and we will see you next week for a new Top 5!